The Federal government announced that the Council of Australian Government’s (COAG) agreed Closing the Gap Strategy would go through a ‘Refresh’ process after revealing that only one of the seven targets is ‘on track’. To launch the consultation phase of the Refresh, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet released a public discussion paper titled ‘The Next Phase’.
This week the Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council (QAIHC) submitted a response to the discussion paper. QAIHC Chairperson, Mr Kieran Chilcott stated that “to Close the Gap in health outcomes, Government needs to provide adequate funding to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled health services (ATSICCHs), be innovative in creating cross-government collaboration and build meaningful relationships with communities”.
QAIHC maintains that despite the demonstrated success of the ATSICCHs model of care, services continue to be under resourced. A proposed funding model for the Indigenous Australians’ Health Programme developed by the Australian Government Department of Health will see the ATSICCHs sector competing for a small pool of funds and the Department proposing to measure the performance of ATSICCHs based on the health outcomes of their patients.
“No other primary health service provider in Australia is funded in this way, revealing that our Sector is held to different standards despite decades of demonstrated success. Our services are being charged with the responsibility of closing the gap on health but are not being funded enough to do it,” Mr Chilcott said.
In addition to the funding for ATSICCHs Mr Chilcott said that current investment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health care is insufficient to meet the Closing the Gap targets.
“The Australian Government expenditure on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health is not relative to the burden of disease. Unless funding is increased, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families will continue to suffer, and the Closing the Gap Targets will not be met,” Mr Chilcott said.
QAIHC insists that the broader health system needs to be working harder to provide adequate care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
“We will be increasing efforts to strengthen relationships with the Primary Health Networks and Hospital and Health Services to emphasise the importance of culturally appropriate, family-centred, comprehensive primary health care,” Mr Chilcott said.
QAIHC’s submission calls for greater collaborative solutions through cross-portfolio agreements, shared funding arrangements and improved inter-departmental data management. QAIHC CEO, Neil Willmett stated that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s wellbeing is dependent on several interconnected foundations of life.
“Poor health is generally a symptom of other factors such as unemployment, lack of access to adequate housing, poor education and disconnection from culture, kin and land. All government departments should be accountable for their contribution to increasing health outcomes by working together to support advancement in the other foundations of life,” Mr Willmett said.
QAIHC insists that it is time for Governments to commit to creating real and genuine relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people including co-designing solutions to ensure that their perspectives are embedded in policy.
“Our communities are crying out for genuine partnerships with Governments that allow us, through self-determination, to structure programme delivery in a way that will work for our communities. Without the engagement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in every step of its design and implementation, the Closing the Gap Refresh is likely to fail,” Mr Willmett said.
A copy of QAIHC’s response to the Closing the Gap Refresh is available online at www.qaihc.com.au